This time last year, people in cities and towns across the Tri-State saw their homes flattened, memories lost, and livelihoods crushed.
One of the hardest hit areas from that storm on the last day in February was a town north of Carmi, Illinois with a population south of 800.
It was an EF-3 tornado that cut a path through cornfields in Crossville. Scars from that night are obvious. Metal still hangs from twisted trees and cinder blocks are just a shadow of homes.
“I saw the destruction on Route 1 right before you come into Crossville, and I knew it was bad then,” says Kenny May. “Concrete buildings were ripped open, trees snapped,” he remembers.
Memories of that day are seared into May’s mind. He helped lead the recovery effort out of Cox’s Hardware store. People came to him looking for supplies or to lend a hand. People from towns all over donated money for victims to get what they needed.
The recovery was quick, but the rebuild continues to this day.
“When we came in that night,” Hannah Riley recalls, “the gravity of the situation kind of set in whenever we found out they were looking for someone.”
Tom McCord died in the storm. Crossville officials say his wife, Debbie is only now starting the rebuild on their farm just outside town. Officials say McCord now lives in Mount Vernon, Ill. and started rebuilding the home in November.
“They’re making a lot of progress,” Riley says. But progress isn’t easy. Some people left their home after their home left them.
Riley says the night went in a blur, and the days that followed were too. “We didn’t realize what was going on,” she says. “just seemed kind of hectic at the time, but it really never was.”
Because Crossville sticks together.
“It just doesn’t happen to 10 people or 20 people,” says May. “It’s like it happened to everybody.”
Recovery is fast and rebuild is slow, but the pride people of White County have for their own will never be changed from a dark day in March.
(This story was originally published March 1, 2018)